Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XLIV: public opinion - Modern Democracies, vol. 2.
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CHAPTER XLIV: public opinion - Viscount James Bryce, Modern Democracies, vol. 2. 
Modern Democracies, (New York: Macmillan, 1921). 2 vols. Vol. 2.
Part of: Modern Democracies, 2 vols.
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There is no better test of the excellence of a Popular Government than the strength of public opinion as a ruling power. I have sought to explain (see Chapter XV. ante) wherein its rule differs, and differs for the better, from that of a numerical majority acting by votes only. In the United States, though votings are more frequent than in any other country, yet Public Opinion is, more fully than elsewhere, the ruling power. The founders of the Republic expected from the average citizen a keener sense of his duty to vote wisely than he has shown, but in the function of giving, by his opinion, a general direction to public policy he has done well. The doctrine of Popular Sovereignty and the structure of the Government made it specially necessary that he should respond to the call made upon him of giving such direction, because the functions of government are divided and parcelled out between its several organs. There are many checks and balances. Where each organ is watched and restrained by others, where terms of office are short, and changes in the persons who administer are consequently frequent, the watchfulness and directive control of the citizens are essential in order to keep the complicated machinery working and to guide each of its parts to a common aim. The citizen must feel his constant responsibility, both to form an opinion and to make it known between the periods at which he delivers it by an electoral vote. Though this duty is not perfectly discharged, public opinion is on the whole more alert, more vigilant, and more generally active through every class and section of the nation than in any other great State. The Frame of Government has by its very complication served to stimulate the body of the people to observe, to think, and to express themselves on public questions.
To explain why this is so, and what are the wholesome results it has produced, let us note some features of public opinion as determined by the character of the national mind.
Not even in the United States are politics the first thing in the citizen's thoughts. His own business, his domestic life, his individual tastes, come first, yet more here than elsewhere does one discover a people seriously interested in public affairs. Nobody says, as men so often say in France, Germany, and Italy, “I never trouble myself about politics.” Current events are constantly discussed among the ordinary rural folk, and though the country newspaper is chiefly filled by farming topics and “local happenings,” still the affairs of the nation figure somewhere in the landscape of nearly every native American. It is, moreover, the good fortune of the country to possess a real national opinion as well as an ardent national patriotism; that is to say, there exists on most political topics a certain agreement which rises above and softens down the differences between the various sections or types of view. In some countries — France for instance — those differences are so marked that no such general concurrence of opinion can, as regards domestic issues, be discerned. It is usually antagonisms that are conspicuous. But in the United States, vast as the country is, there are many matters on which the great majority seem to be of one mind all the way from one ocean to the other. During the first two years of the late war there were diversities of attitude and feeling between the North Atlantic States and the South and the Middle West and the Far West, easily explicable by the fact that the first-named were in much closer touch with Europe and felt themselves more affected by what was passing there. But America's entrance into the conflict effaced these diversities. The same wave of feeling, sweeping over the whole continent, brought its sections into full accord. Considering how dissimilar are the conditions of economic and social life in the East, in the South, and in the West, this similarity of opinion is remarkable. It is qualified only by the feeling, still strong in the South, that, whatever happens, the coloured men must not be allowed to regain any considerable voting power. Racial diversities may be found everywhere, for one-third of the inhabitants were born abroad or of foreign parents, but such diversities affect but slightly the opinion of the nation, because the most recent immigrants have neither the education nor the experience needed to enable them to influence others; while those who have been born and bred in the country have already become substantially American in their interests and ways of thought. Though in some cities masses of Slavs or Italians remain unabsorbed, the only large minorities which retain an attachment to the country of their origin sufficient to have political importance are a section of the Germans and a section of the Irish. It is, however, only in so far as questions of foreign relations are affected that these two elements stand out of the general stream of opinion. The solvent and assimilative forces of education, of companionship, of all the things that make up social environment, are stronger in America than in any other country. Religious differences also count for very little. In some few matters Roman Catholics may be influenced by respect for the head of their Church, and they usually support the demand of their clergy for grants to denominational schools. But there is nothing resembling that strength of ecclesiastical sentiment which used to affect the political attitude of many Nonconformists and many members of the Established Church in England, much less any manifestations of the bitterness which in France arrays in hostile camps the Roman Catholics and the anti-clerical or the non-Christian part of the population.
Class distinctions have during the last hundred years become in Continental Europe the forces which chiefly split and rend a people into antagonistic sections of opinion. This tendency has increased with the spread of the revolutionary school which preaches the so-called “class war” of the “proletariate” against the “bourgeois.” It is only within the last three decades that this doctrine, brought from Europe by German and Russo-Jewish immigrants, has been making way, and what support it receives comes almost wholly from the still unassimilated part of the immigrant population. America had been theretofore exempt from class antagonisms, because opinion had been divided, not horizontally along the strata of less or greater wealth, but vertically, so that each view, each political tenet, was common to men in every social class. The employer and his workmen, the merchant and his clerks, were not led by their different social positions to think differently on politics any more than they would think differently on religion. They have been Republicans or Democrats for reasons unconnected with pecuniary means or station in life, neither of these two parties having any permanent affinity either with the richer or with the poorer, though from time to time one or other might, in some parts of the country, enlist the support of the moneyed class on a particular party issue, like that of Free Silver in 1896.1
This fact suggests another reflection. In many of the largest and gravest questions, public opinion does not move on party lines. This is partly because the tenets, or at least the professions, of the opposite parties sometimes come very near to one another. A famous journalist observed to me in 1908: “Our two parties are like two bottles, both empty, but bearing different labels.” He spoke truly, for though there were strong currents of opinion discernible, none was flowing in a party channel. One observes in America that men accustomed to support their party by their votes, frequently disapprove both its acts and its promises. Thus the power and cohesiveness of party does not prevent the existence of a common sentiment in the bulk of the nation, often more united than the vehemence of party language leads foreigners to suppose. There are, in fact, only two fairly well-defined types of class opinion. One is that of the small financial class, including the heads of great industrial concerns, the other that of the advanced Socialist party,2 largely under the influence of European syndicalistic or even anarchistic ideas. Among the rest there are no sharp and permanent oppositions of political tenets or of social sympathies.
Political opinion is better instructed than in Continental Europe, because a knowledge of the institutions of the country and their working is more generally diffused here than there through the rank and file of the native population. This is mainly due to the practice of local self-government and to the publicity given by the newspapers to all that passes in the political field. Something may be attributed to the active part in public affairs that has always been played by members of the legal profession, and even more, in recent times, to the influence of college teaching. The number of men who have graduated in some place of higher instruction is probably ten times as large (in proportion to population) as in any part of Continental Europe, and much more than twice as large as in Great Britain. These men have done much to leaven the voting mass. Most of them have not received what Europeans would call a complete university education, and the so-called literary or humanistic studies have been often neglected. But they have been led into the realms of thought, and their horizons have been widened. They are often the leaders in reform movements, with higher ideas of good citizenship than the average business man used to possess, and they are less inclined to a blind support of their party. One of the most significant and most hopeful features of American life has been the increase during the last forty years of the number and the influence of the universities, and of the extent to which their alumni, business men as well as lawyers, teachers, and clergymen, make themselves felt in the higher forms of political activity.1
What, then, of the Press, which is in all modern countries the chief factor in forming as well as in diffusing opinion? This is not the place to describe its general features, nor to enquire how far it deserves the censures which many Europeans, repelled by the faults of the worst newspapers, have unfairly bestowed upon it as a whole. These faults are due not to democracy, but to the social and economic conditions of the lower strata in city populations, conditions that produce in all countries results generally similar, but more marked here, because nowhere are there so many newspapers which find their circulation in that vast reading mass which is chiefly interested in records of crime and of events in the field of sport.
The press, including many weekly and some monthly magazines which handle political questions, is a chief agent in forming opinion by letting everybody know what everybody else is saying or is supposed to be thinking. This tells on the minds of undecided or unreflective people. Having neither the time nor the knowledge to think for themselves they feel safe in thinking with the majority. In this sense the press makes opinion more effectively here than in any other country, because the habit of reading is more general, and prominent men, though less given than are the English to writing letters to the newspapers, are more wont to confide their views to an interviewer. The papers have their defects. The reporting of even the best speeches is full and exact only in a very few of the best journals, the rest confining themselves to abridgments which often miss the really important points. As everything is done in haste, the truth of facts fares ill; but in the general result the whole opinion of the country is mirrored more completely than anywhere in Europe. It is the statements of events and of the opinions of public men that tell. They would tell even more but for the inaccuracies frequent in papers of the second rank and rarely corrected, yet here, as elsewhere, these do not prevent the average man from assuming that what he sees in print is likely to be true. Editorial articles count for less than in England or France: few people swear by their favourite paper, as many still do in England, and the names of editors and of writers of leading articles are scarcely known to the public. Hardly more than six or seven men have, during the last thirty years, become familiar and personally influential figures in the world of political journalism, great as is the literary talent which many have displayed. Thus the profession does not offer that opening to a public career which it has often done in France and sometimes in England, though the proprietor of a widely circulated paper or group of papers may become a political figure, and even seek high office by bringing himself before the public. Scarcely ever has a leading statesman controlled, as in France, a newspaper which habitually pushed his views or urged his personal claims, so it may be assumed that this form of advocacy or advertisement would prove unprofitable. Press hostility directed against a statesman, not by mere abuse, which seldom tells, but by persistently recalling errors he has committed, or (more rarely) by inventing and repeating gross calumnies, can injure his prospects more than praise, however lavish, can improve them. Men have been “boomed” into popularity and power more frequently in England than in America. Does this argue the presence of more discernment in the public?
Partisanship also, i.e. the indiscriminating support of a political party, is rather less marked in American than in European journals, the former holding a more independent attitude, and bestowing their censures on one or other party with reference less to their professed political principles than to their action at any particular time or their attitude on any particular issue. This increases their weight with thoughtful readers, and has a wholesome influence on party chiefs, who know they must expect criticism even from the organs to which they usually look for support. To be wounded in the house of your friends, though a painful, is sometimes a profitable experience.
Though the Press as a whole is at least as important a factor in the working of government as it is anywhere else in the world, no single paper is as powerful as some have been in England, in France, in Italy, in Australia, and in Argentina. This is due to the size of the country. The range of a journal which can be read in the forenoon of its issue is confined to some few hundreds of miles, and though the utterances of the very best papers are widely read and largely quoted much further off, or may have their views telegraphed all over the Union, they have no great hold on a distant public. The ascendancy of any wealthy proprietor or group of proprietors influencing a large proportion of the voters by impressing on them, day after day and week after week, one set of views and the same one-sided statement of facts or alleged facts, is a danger only in the sphere of foreign relations. In that sphere plausible falsehoods and persistently malignant misrepresentation of the character and purposes of another people may do infinite mischief. One form of such misrepresentation is to pick out and reprint any unfriendly utterances that appear in the newspapers, perhaps contemptible and without influence, of the country which it is desired to injure.
The exposure and denunciation of municipal misgovernment and corruption is among the greatest services which the American Press — including some religious and other non-political weeklies — performs. We have seen how largely these evils sprang from the ignorance or apathy of the “respectable classes,” who constantly need to be awakened from their torpor, and driven to support the too scanty band of civic reformers. European observers, offended by the excesses to which the passion for publicity can run in the United States, sometimes fail to realize how many evils the incessant vigilance of the press prevents or helps to cure. Whether its faults, which were thought to have been aggravated with the upspringing of some papers of a low type in the end of last century, have tended to decrease in later years is a question which some judicious observers answer by saying that the best papers have grown better and the worst papers worse. On several great occasions, and notably during the course of the recent War, the Press rendered conspicuous services to the nation as an exponent of instructed and thoughtful opinion.
Since it was on the Average Man and his civic virtue that the founders of the Republic relied for the working of its institutions, it is well to consider that generalized being, taking a sort of composite photograph from many individuals, and enquiring how far his power of forming a sound opinion has justified the confidence reposed in him. As the characteristic type of the Average Man, take the native American landowning farmer in the Northern and especially in the Middle Western and North-Western States, where he is seen at his best, for in New England he has been largely replaced by the new immigrant not yet thoroughly Americanized. With the farmer one may couple the storekeeper or artisan of those smaller towns which have, a sort of rural colour. These two classes, and particularly the former, are specifically American products, the like of whom one finds nowhere else, independent and fairly well educated. Though sometimes querulous, as are agriculturists generally, accustomed to complain of the weather, they would, but for their resentment at the exploitation they suffer at the hands of financial interests, he as nearly satisfied with their lot as man is ever likely to be.
The normal member of these classes has a great pride in his country and a sense of his own duty to it. He follows the course of national and State politics, not assiduously, but with fair intelligence and attention, usually voting at elections, though apt to leave political work to be done by the party organization. He is overprone to vote the party ticket, whatever names are put on it, and needs to be made to feel his own interest affected before he will join in a reforming movement. Shrewd, and critical of the motives and character of politicians, he is rather less suspicious than is the English or French peasant, because he has confidence in his own shrewdness, is socially the equal of the politicians, and quite as well instructed as most of them. But his horizon is limited. His thought, like his daily work, moves in a small circle; his imagination fails to grasp conditions unlike those of his own life. Thus he is not well qualified to form a judgment on the larger questions of policy. Working hard to secure decent comfort for his family, he does not understand the value of special knowledge, thinks one man as good as another for official work, refuses to pay salaries to a judge or an administrator twice or thrice as large as his own net income. Not versed in economic principles, and seldom fitted by education to comprehend them when stated, he may fall a prey to plausible fallacies and be captured by vague promises to redress grievances of which he feels the pinch.
But if he be no good judge of measures, he is no bad judge of men. Here his shrewdness helps him: here his respect for honesty and courage comes in. When he recognizes in any public man uprightness, firmness, and a sincere desire to serve the public, he is ready to trust and to follow, rarely withdrawing a confidence once given. A strong State Governor or Mayor who fights the politicians of the Legislature in the public interest, speaking clearly to the plain people, and above the suspicion of selfish motives, can count upon his vote, even against the party organization. It was by the confidence of average men of this type that Abraham Lincoln was carried to the Presidency, and that Governor Hughes of New York was enabled to bend to his will the party machine that had been ruling that great State. These men who till the land they own are solid and intelligent, one of the great assets of the republic.
Of some qualities which the American people as a whole show in their political life little need be said, because it is hard to determine how far these are due to democratic habits, how far to national character, i.e. to the original English character as modified by physical and economic conditions in a new country, as well as (in a lesser degree) by admixture with other races. Still, as we are considering how American democracy works, it may be observed that they are an impressionable people, among whom excitement rises suddenly and spreads fast, quickened by the contagion of numbers. Communication is so easy and swift over the Continent that the same impulse seems to possess every one at the same moment, as if all were assembled, like the Athenians, in one huge public meeting. It is then that the cunningly devised divisions of power and other constitutional checks are found serviceable, for at such moments opinion is apt to be intolerant of opposition, and may even resort to extra-legal methods of suppressing it. But this seldom happens. In ordinary times that tyranny of the majority1 which Tocqueville described and feared as an evil inherent in democracies no longer exists. Independence of mind is respected. Even cranks are borne with, nor does any country produce a richer crop. Americans are, moreover, a kindly and in normal times an indulgent people.2 This was seen half a century ago when after the Civil War an unprecedented clemency was extended towards those who were then talked of as rebels. Still less are they, as most Europeans suppose, a materialistic people. The race for wealth, not really greater than in Western Europe, is a passion rather for success in making than for pleasure in enjoying a fortune. Nowhere is money so freely given to any charitable or other public purpose. Nowhere, except perhaps in Italy and France, are intellectual attainments so widely honoured. These two last-named characteristics may be credited to Democracy, which has here instilled a sense of a rich man's duty to return to the community a large part of what individual energy has won, and which respects achievements that reflect credit upon the nation and give it a pride in itself. Both sentiments flourish wherever, as here, class antagonisms are overborne by the sense of a higher common national life.
In saying that Public Opinion is the real ruler of America, I mean that there exists a judgment and sentiment of the whole nation which is imperfectly expressed through its representative legislatures, is not to be measured by an analysis of votes cast at elections, is not easily gathered from the most diligent study of the press, but is nevertheless a real force, impalpable as the wind, yet a force which all are trying to discover and nearly all to obey. As Andrew Marvell wrote:
There is on earth a yet diviner thing, Veiled though it be, than Parliament or King.
In and through it, not necessarily at any single given moment, but in the long run, irrespective of temporary gusts of passion, the conscience and judgment of the people assert themselves, overruling the selfishness of sections and the vehemence of party. Illustrations of its controlling power are supplied by the progress of the various reform movements I must now describe, beginning by a short account of the most noteworthy changes which have passed upon American public sentiment during the last fifty years that have elapsed since I had first the opportunity of studying the country.
The Civil War (1861–1865) was a turning-point in the history of opinion, because for the twenty years that preceded it the growing gravity of the Slavery conflict had distracted men's minds from those constitutional and administrative questions which were not directly related to that issue. After 1865, and still more after 1877, when Federal troops were finally withdrawn from the South, the people were set free to think of many domestic topics that had been neglected. It is a testimony to the vitality of the nation that opinion is always changing not merely because new questions emerge, but because the national mind has been constantly, and is now increasingly active. Few of these changes have been due to the recognized leaders of the parties. They began, like most American movements, from a small group, or several small groups, of thinkers who saw the evils and sought a cure. Wheresoever they started, they usually found support in both parties, because the evils were felt to be real. The professional party politicians, high and low, at first discountenanced them, fearing for party solidarity. Various was their fate. Sometimes, like the seed that fell in dry places, they withered away, because the public feeling they tried to appeal to was hard ground, and failed to respond. Sometimes, slowly pervading one party, they captured it, and their doctrines passed into its orthodoxy. Sometimes they caused a schism and created a new party, which did its work in affecting the views of both the older parties, and then subsided, its adherents returning to their former allegiance without abjuring their tenets. These phenomena, which may be traced far back in the annals of America, illustrate the tendency of its party organizations to become ossified when left to themselves. They need to be shaken up and have new life breathed into them by the independent thought of individuals or groups. They exist for Offices rather than for Principles. If the party system had exerted the same power over minds as it did over offices, it would long ago have ruined the country.
Among the changes and tendencies characteristic of the democratic spirit in America, none has been better worth studying than the dying down of the old tendency to aggression abroad. The sentiment which favours peace and respects the rights of neighbouring States has grown slowly but steadily. It is true that there have been two wars within the last twenty-two years. That against Spain might probably have been avoided, for with a little more patience Spain could have been forced to retire from Cuba, the long-continued misgovernment of which had roused American sympathy, but the war, though it brought about the annexation of the Philippines, had not been prompted by the lust for conquest. A significant evidence of disinterestedness was given when the United States abstained from annexing Cuba, and again when having been subsequently obliged to despatch troops thither to restore order, those troops were soon withdrawn. From 1911 onwards the disturbed condition of Mexico, where American citizens were frequently injured, suggested armed occupation, to be probably followed by the acquisition either of the northern provinces or of the whole country. But the temptation was resisted. A financial protectorate has been established over the so-called “republics” of Haiti and San Domingo, whose disorders seemed to call for a benevolent intervention, but there are no signs of any wish to take over the general government of communities, one of which is no better than a piece of savage Africa placed in the Caribbean Sea.1 The old talk about forcing or tempting Canada into the Union has ceased to be heard, and the relations between the two peoples, dwelling peaceably along an undefended frontier of three thousand miles, are more cordial than ever before. Of the unselfish motives which brought America into the Great War to defend what she held to be a righteous cause, there is no need to speak. The immense army which she raised and the prowess which her soldiers and sailors showed have fostered among the people no militaristic spirit, no desire for the conquest of new dominions.2
When he turns to the domestic sphere, the observer discerns two tendencies that may seem, but are not really, divergent. One is the disposition to leave the Southern States alone to deal with the difficulties which the presence of a large negro population creates. The Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution, intended to secure equal electoral rights to the negro, has been successfully evaded by the whites of the South, yet the proposals made thirty years ago to restore those rights by Federal action have been quietly dropped. But while in this matter Federal intervention was disapproved, the powers of the National Government were simultaneously growing in other directions, and the rights reserved to the States by the Constitution have been correspondingly narrowed. Decisions of the Supreme Court have extended, and Federal legislation by Congress has made more effective, the powers exercisable over railways and commerce. Public sentiment went still further and induced Congress to pass Acts for the regulation of child labour, which the Supreme Court held invalid because invading a province clearly reserved to the States. An Amendment to the Constitution (the Sixteenth) has authorized Congress to levy an incometax, another (the Seventeenth) has changed the mode of electing the Senate, and more recently (1919) the world has been startled by an Amendment (the Eighteenth) prohibiting the production and sale of intoxicating liquors over the whole Union, this having been hitherto a matter which seemed, on the old constitutional lines, to be altogether within the sphere of the States.1 So, too, an Amendment extending the electoral suffrage to women over the whole Union was carried in 1920, a change which, whatever its merits or demerits, deprives the States of what the framers of the Constitution held to be an essential principle of the Federal system.
This apparently light-hearted readiness to alter a Fundamental Instrument which had, save for the three Civil War Amendments, stood unchanged from 1804 till 1912, and the proposal of other amendments now treated as matters for serious discussion, indicate a decline in that veneration for the time-honoured Constitution which had ruled the minds of preceding generations. The three first-named amendments were carried by large majorities, neither party organization opposing.
The United States has felt, quite as fully as any European country, the influence of that philanthropic impulse which has stirred the more advanced peoples of the world within the nineteenth century, growing stronger with the years as they pass.
The legislation which that impulse has prompted seems to he the result of three converging forces — the sentiment of human equality which creates and accompanies democratic government, a keener sympathy with human suffering, and a fear among the educated classes that if they do not promote laws securing better conditions of life to the masses, the latter will attain those conditions for themselves by an over-hasty use of their votes, or, failing legal methods, by violence. For more than half a century American public opinion, warmly philanthropic in the more advanced and best educated parts of the country, has caused the enactment of many measures for bettering the health, comfort, and education of the poorer classes, and improving in every way the conditions of labour. As these things have to be effected by laws, and laws have to be administered by public authorities, reformers invoke the State; while the Labour organizations, desiring to throw more and more into its hands, advocate the nationalization of some great industries. The old doctrines of individual self-help and laissez faire have been thrown overboard, and the spirit of paternalism waxes strong. So far as respects regulation of conduct and the protection of the worker, the State has already become a significant factor, though it does not police the citizen as in Germany, nor undertake the direct management of industries after the manner of Australia and New Zealand.1 All this has been the doing not of the parties, but of a public opinion at work in both parties, which aims at amending institutions, because it is hoped to obtain from them when amended certain social and economic benefits which the people desire. The machinery is to be repaired in order to secure a larger output.
Though often described as socialistic, this movement has had its source in a sense of human brotherhood seeking to mitigate the inequalities of fortune, rather than in any Collectivistic theories imported from Germany by the disciples of Marx. The professedly Socialist parties of America count some native Americans among their leaders, but find most of their support in the recent immigrants from Europe, and they grow slowly. One of them runs candidates in national elections, but its vote has hitherto been small.1
More important, and more directly operative in politics, are three streams of opinion so intimately connected each with the others that they must be considered together. These are: (1) hatred of the Money Power, and especially of those large incorporated companies and monopolistic combinations through which wealth chiefly acts; (2) disgust at the workings of the party Machine, and the methods of nomination by which it distributes offices to its adherents; (3) anger at the corruption and maladministration which have prevailed in the great cities. These three sources of evil are linked in the minds of public-spirited and energetic citizens as three heads of the hydra which must be shorn off together if the monster is to be destroyed. The great corporations have used the party Machine to get what they want. The party Machine is seen at its worst in the cities, and draws from their bad conditions most of its illicit gains, so to kill the Machine would be both to reclaim the cities and to cripple the power of money in politics.2 Three voices of discontent or aspiration were heard: Tree the people from the yoke of the Money Power and the monopolies; Free the voters from the tyranny of the Machine; Free the masses from the depressing conditions of their life. How were these objects to be attained? By the People itself, that is, by its direct action in law-making. Legislatures have been tried, and failed, for they have been corrupted by the money power and controlled by the Machine. Let us invoke the People to set things right. Thus there arose a wave of democratic sentiment which swept over the country, prompted by the sense of practical grievances, but drawing strength also from that doctrine of Popular Sovereignty to which the multitude respond now as they did in the days of Jefferson, and again in those of Andrew Jackson.
This statement is not inconsistent with the fact that in the Eastern cities most of the rich belong to one party, and that in the former Slave States nearly all of that class belong to the other, but in the latter case this predominance is due not to economic reasons but to recollections of the Reconstruction period after the Civil War.
Socialism has made less progress among the Labour Unions than it has among the working men of European countries. Some of the chiefs of the American Unions are definitely opposed to it, and occasionally denounce doctrines of a revolutionary tendency.
Complaints are sometimes heard that the Universities are too much controlled by the boards of trustees drawn from the business world and occasionally intolerant of opinions they dislike; but whatever foundation there may be for these complaints so far as regards the academical staff, the services rendered to the political life of the nation are evident.
As to this, and as to that tendency to acquiesce in the overmastering power of a large majority which I have ventured to call the Fatalism of the Multitude, see American Commonwealth, vol. ii. chaps. lxxxiv and lxxxv.
The intolerance of opposition occasionally shown during and just after the Great War was perhaps no greater than might have been expected in any country in like circumstances; and these were so exceptional that it would be hardly fair to judge the people generally by such an incident as the expulsion from a State Legislature of certain members whose views had roused hostility.
Some measure of financial control has also been assumed over Nicaragua and Honduras.
Upon the changed attitude of the U.S. to world questions the recent book of Professor Max Farrand, The Development of the United States, and upon the relations of the U.S. to Great Britain and Canada the book of Professor Dunning entitled A Century of Peace, may be usefully consulted
Experienced observers declare that this amendment which was enacted by Congress and the requisite number of State Legislatures would unquestionably have been carried if submitted to a popular vote. Its success is ascribed partly to the dislike for the “saloons,” as owned and run by powerful incorporated companies, but is also deemed to be largely due to the belief that it would not only diminish crime and poverty but would increase the productive power of the nation. Both these results are said to have shown themselves within the last few months.
As to the movement in N. Dakota, see p. 136 post. There is no great tendency towards “nationalization” of industries except in the advanced sections of the Socialist party.
Anarchism and Syndicalism are of course also at work here and there, and labour disputes have led to some murders and to much violence, especially in the mining districts, where there are large masses of new immigrants. But both the volume of industrial unrest and the strength of extremist sections are less than in France, Italy, or England.
Speaking of the action of the money power, ex-President W. H. Taft said: “Not all was brought about by direct corruption, but much was effected through more insidious influence, and by furnishing the funds that political exigencies in important electoral contests called for. The time was, and we all know it, when in many of the directorates of the great corporations of the country, orders for the delivery of delegates in a convention and of members of the legislature for purposes of corporate control were issued with the same feeling of confidence in their fulfilment as an order for the purchase of machinery or the enlargement of the pay-roll” (The Signs of the Times, address before Electrical Manufacturer's Club, November 6, 1913, pp. 11–12).